Cellular Decay

February 3, 2007

Early one morning, a few weeks ago, I dropped my cell phone in the toilet. It was a pre-pee-or-poop drop, so I dove in. Alas, it was too late.

That baby really slid down there. It was almost as if it knew how worthless it was, being 1) old 2) unattractive (gasp!) 3) a cell phone in the first place. The thing almost disppeared down the hole, and when I finally got it out, it started calling my parents all on its own. I don’t believe this was a coincidence. It was my lady’s toilet I had dropped it in, and I think my cell phone, knowing how worthless I felt it to be, was seeking some sort of tattle-tail’s revenge.

“He’s at a lady’s house early in the morning, parents. Do you have any idea what that might mean? What would your own parents think if you had done that? Sure…times are different…but look what happened to Uncle Al! Oh, and, mom-parent, he didn’t lift the seat – but despite all of what I just said, you’ll like the lady – she yells at him for peeing on the seat. He grumbles at her about how he can’t win, that she always nags him for leaving it up, so he just leaves it down now. Then she says that she means to put it back down when he’s done – and then there’s a little more back and forth, then they argue, and then he tells her how sexy she is, and she, after agreeing, says something similar in turn, and then they’re both in the bathroom, and, well, you don’t want to know what happens then, unless you do-”

That is what my cell phone would have said, if I hadn’t ripped out its battery. A vindictive cell phone. All the more so, I believe, because of what I would have to go through to get a replacement. I feel like it knew this, and purposely enjoyed a last laugh even as it died.

So, because the majority of our lives seem to now revolve, if not around our cell phones exactly, at least around conditions wherein constant and around-the-clock communication is not only possible but imperative to our day-to-day survival (what if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, or worse, the edge of nowhere, otherwise known as the abstract state of being that I am slowly falling into as a sit here talking about someone or something that was doing something to someone who was talking about them doing something that they didn’t do but was only talking about doing…or something) – anyway – because of all this, I decided to wait a week to replace my phone.

I also decided to wait a week because in a week I would be eligible for a free one hundred dollar upgrade from Verizon (who, by the way, totally ruined the nickname that Vertical Horizon was planning on using for themselves while touring…before they fell off the face of the earth, because they’re full of fluff) as a result of my plan being up for renewal.

Please follow that link, because:

1. I need to know what they are all looking at…especially if the horizon has been rotated to run up and down.

2.I need to know if that’s Roger Clemens in the back-right of the picture.

Back to the handed task: I waited the week. But how did I survive? Well, I’ll tell you the truth. I used my work phone and a landline. This left me susceptible to incommunicadoness when I wasn’t at work or at home. It was like a vacation in the past, and I liked it. My lady: “Wait, so if you’re not at work or at home…I can’t talk to you?”

One more point, and one’s that important to the story, before I go on…to the story. The landline.

We didn’t have one at our apartment. This is how I got one:

1.Went to one of those electronics stores in midtown, the ones that feel more like the inside of a claw grabber game at the arcade that an actual store, and where everything seems like it fell off a truck, and yet is way overpriced. And where you feel dirty just asking a question of the vaguely-suspect-but-I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-why-they’re-suspect-and-I-also-don’t-want-people-to-think-I’m-racist store clerks?

I don’t know why I ended that sentence with a question mark, I think it’s because it just felt like more of a question than anything else. The point is:

2.I went to the store, went to the desk, told them I needed a landline phone. He didn’t look at me like I was crazy, but he almost did.
“A landline phone?”
“One that plugs into the wall.”
One clerk looked at the other. Who was this suspicious man, asking for a phone that plugs into the wall?
“What sort of phone would you like?”
“A cheap one. Just needs to make calls.”
“We have one over there.”
Inwardly, I was glad he had one over there. Outwardly, since I couldn’t get it myself, as it was behind glass, I asked him if I could have it. He relented, and I had a landline.

I got it, brought it home, plugged it in, and since we already had a phone number for dial-up internet (a whole different story, and one I don’t want to tell) it worked right away. Even including the amount of time it took to get home on the subway, this took a total of less than one hour.

Not so, a week later, with dear sweet Verizon.

First, because our Family Plan account was in my name but was being paid for by my father, I had to go to Rhode Island. A four hour bus ride. This ride was made absolutely necessary by Verizon, because no changes could be made to the account without both me and my father present. I would go into the details of why this was so, but I don’t want you to stop reading, or, if you do continue reading anyway, I don’t want your head to explode.

Enter Rhode Island. The Ocean State. My father and I took a ride to the nearest Verizon store, trying to time things so that it would not be so packed with fellow sufferers that we’d flip out and start hurting people. It worked. When we got there, there was one other customer in the store – and about fifteen Verizon employees.

We entered knowing exactly what services we needed. A new phone for me, bought by cashing in the upgrade, and then two new contracts, a renewal of the family plan in my father’s name, and a fresh new one for me to pay all on my own. (I should point out, at this point, that while I can’t deny that my parents were paying for my cell phone, that my plan was as a result only ten dollars a month on the family plan, which made a whole lot more sense for paying fifty or sixty bucks a month on my own, so that’s why they were paying.)

So, we knew what we wanted. How will Verizon go about giving it to us? Ha-ha!

We waited, in the center of the store. We waited, stupidly!, for one of the fifteen Verizon employees to make their move. You know, that move that used to be so prevalent in sales, where you approach the customer with the intent to sell something, rather than just sit back smugly, waiting for them to come to you with their money, so you can take more and more of it in exchange for more and more difficulty – for them.

And we waited. They hardly acknowledged us. They were busy chatting and – surprise! – playing with their cell phones.

My father: “I think we might have to sign in on this computer.”
Just then, as if on cue, a man walked up to us.
“Are you together?”
“Did you sign into the system?”
“You have to sign into the system. Right over here on the computer.”

That was the end of this man’s job.

We signed into the computer. Still, though we were the only two people there besides the one man who was already being helped, we waited. We waited ten minutes. While fifteen people chatted and played with their cell phones from behind their respective stations.

Eventually someone called us. We told her what we needed. After we told her three more times, she finally understood. And then she told us we couldn’t have it.

I don’t feel like going into why. I’m partially convinced that Verizon made up the reasons. The end result, though, was that we could get some of what we needed: my new phone and my new plan.

But the woman who had initially called us over could not help us with this. She had to first update the system, then send us to the other side of the store to deal with someone else, and then we would have to come back over to her to finish the job. By now, we had been in the store for about forty minutes.

We drifted, helplessly, back into the center of the store. We waited. I looked at the lines of Verizon employees, surrounding us, in lines of five on all sides, and I hated my very existence.

After ten more minutes a different woman called us over. The computer must have told her that we were ready.

It did not tell her our story. We had to repeat it, in full. Then she understood…that I needed a new plan and a new phone. This took another ten minutes.

She then called up our old plan on the computer, and told me how many minutes I had been using on average. Not many. Her eyes widened at the number of text messages. She said I better add text messaging to my plan. I said that I had been planning on it. She then tapped at the keyboard again for two minutes for no explicable reason.

We set up my plan, she talked us into paying an extra thirty dollars, on top of the hundred dollar credit, for a new phone. Because that is what the system had in store for us, and we were but helpless, individual men.

Got the phone. Back to the center of the room. I am not even joking.

The first woman called us back over, relatively quickly, to her credit. We then waited another forty-five minutes to an hour for everything to get worked out. Partially because she was training someone.

That someone looked at my father.
“I know you.”
“I did a party at your house.”
“I thought you looked familiar.”
“Yeah. I used to bartend for XYZ Catering.”
“Oh, yeah. How you doing?”
“Good. Good.”
“Not working for them anymore?”
“Sometimes. Wasn’t quite making ends meet.”

No, to do that, you need a job where you can work alongside fifteen people set up in rows of five and sit around chatting while two men wait around for two hours practically begging you to help then accomplish something that should take about twenty minutes.

Thanks Verizon. You truly, truly, never stop working for me.


2 Responses to “Cellular Decay”

  1. codyhess Says:

    Technically it’s not about the shitty customer service – it’s the network.

  2. […] line did not move. Circuit City uses the Verizon Wireless model of customer service, wherein you engage your customers in an intimidating […]

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